Valentines Day: Opus Restaurant
After hearing lots of fantastic comments about the tasting menus at Opus, J and I decided that we would spend our Valentines evening there. Now before you go on about how V-day is just a commercial holiday made up by chocolatiers and fragrance companies to make you spend your money- please keep in mind that J is almost ALWAYS on tour in February and Valentines Day is usually spent apart. More importantly, any excuse to eat a good meal out works for us, ha. I suppose that's the real reason!
I want to keep this short and sweet since I'll let the photos speak for themselves. In a nutshell- we both thought Opus was good- there were a couple of things that we fell in love with, and a couple of things we weren't crazy about. There are probably many reasons that have nothing to do with the food for why we felt this way, the main one being that we rarely do tasting menus so we don't really have much to compare it to. Other than omakase at sushi, I can't remember the last time we had a tasting menu, actually. So that's my official disclaimer- I'm not an expert on tasting menus! We both were disappointed with the wine pairings- it was Euro-heavy which is not a problem, but most of the wines lacked body and didn't do a lot for the food. Ironically, a chardonnay (we're not big fans of chardonnay) paired with the John Dory ended up being one of our favorites. The service was warm and attentive, and our waitress was genuinely enthusiastic about the food, which is always nice. There was no menu of the tasting so unfortunately, you'll have to rely on the power (or lack thereof) of my descriptions as I do not recall the exact names of all of the dishes.
The bread basket had thin slices of a cheese bread which was very good, a walnut/hazelnut bread that was ok and a pile of extremely greasy, deep-fried pita chips, which seemed out of place in the basket and the restaurant!
Here is what we had:
Amuse of fennel seed "pudding" with, I believe, some sort of sweet potato custard and topped with seeds. This savory pudding was actually quite sweet- in the way that a vidalia is sweet- and I enjoyed this immensely. J, on the other hand, found the sweetness a bit much. Although I'm not a fennel fan, the flavor wasn't overpowering and the combination with the crunchy seeds made for a very pleasant texture.
First course of hamachi sashimi topped with blood orange "caviar," cucumber "caviar" and served alongside a fried fish of some sort (sorry!) served with a red pepper sauce. We both loved this dish- the hamachi was fresh and fatty, but our favorite was the small nugget of fried fish with the roasted red pepper sauce. We wanted more!
"Mini-course" of egg cream with yolk in the shell. My first bite of this consisted entirely of thick, sweet/sour white cream....slightly sweet...almost like the filling of a cheesecake. J and I both thought "???" but once I dug in deeper and combined the cream with some of the softly cooked yolk, it changed the entire experience- it was delicious. Since the yolk is buried deep beneath the white cream, it might help to have the waitress suggest mixing the two or at least digging in to get the combination for maximum effect.
Second course of avocado mousse with creme fraiche, caviar and crumbled pistachio brittle. This dish was ok, but the avocado tasted too "green"- we felt that that the avocados used may not have been at their prime yet. I think after the creaminess of the egg mini course which preceded this, the texture was too similar and we wanted something a bit more...toothsome. I thought the sweet, crumbled brittle (it wasn't called brittle but I can't recall the exact name!) was a nice compliment to the briny caviar.
Third course of creamy asparagus soup with a lobster ravioli. We both loved this and it was a nice change of pace to get something warm and comforting. The soup smelled and tasted of fresh asparagus- very pure to the main ingredient- and the single, large ravioli in the middle contained just lobster- no "filler"- and it went so well with the soup. Lick-the-bowl good!
Fourth course of pan-seared John Dory on a bed of sauteed celery with tarragon. This was just ok. I actually liked the sauteed celery with tarragon very much. Who thought that celery could make such a subtle and lovely side dish? The fish was fine but nothing to write home about.
MY Fifth course of braised shortrib with cubes of potatoes, golden beets, green beans and crispy fried sweetbreads. This was rich.....uber rich. There was a strong hint of cinnamon and/or clove spice in this, which I wasn't a huge fan of. The meat was tender, but combined with the nuggets of deep fried sweetbreads, ended up being too heavy for me, personally. The spice in the braising liquid didn't suit my taste.
J's Fifth course of sesame-crusted aji (spanish mackeral) was the stand-out winner of the entire evening. We both LOVED it. First of all, it's nice to see mackeral on a menu....unless you're at a sushi joint, it doesn't appear often. I know how tricky it is to cook such an oily fish but there was no overwhelming fishiness and every bite was tender, juicy and extremely flavorful. The sauce drizzled around the fish was sweet but it complimented the nutty sesame and the fish so well. Truly unique and delicious.
Sixth course of chocolate for two- chocolate brownie topped with chocolate ice cream, chocolate stuffed strawberry, spice truffle, chocolate truffle all served with a vanilla crème anglaise. This was very good- the brownie and ice cream was not too sweet and the truffles were appropriately rich. By this point, we were both full but we finished every last morsel anyway.
Overall, it was a good experience. I think, next time we go, we will try the a la carte items- everything coming out of the kitchen looked great. The tasting menu (even at the elevated Valentine's Day price of $80 + $45 w/ wine pairing) is still one of the best bargains in town so if you're itching to try one, Opus is a great place to start.
To check out a decidedly different yet completely original and fun Valentine's Day outing, go here to read about D & J's very special evening!